Thursday, December 31, 2009

Is Cable The Right Guy for 2010?

The Raiders sit at 5-10 going into the finale vs. the Ravens. One of the important decisions going into next year is the status of Head Coach Tom Cable. If I was to base my opinion solely on the game vs. the Browns, I would vote for Cable to be demoted to OLine coach. What concerns me is some of Cable quotes after the game more than the actual failures to perform his job.

(1) Playcalling - Facing 1st and goal from the 2 yard line, Cable called 4 consecutive pass plays.

Quote: The decision not to run the ball or have Frye execute a run-pass option to the outside, Cable said the plays were "check with me" or dictated by the look of Cleveland's D.

Reality: You are 2 yards away from cutting the deficit to a TD. You have a RB (Bush) who averages 5.0 yards per carry and weighs 245 lbs and you don't run the ball at least 1 time? Cable as the Head Coach can "dictate" the playcall regardless of what the Cleveland D shows. I don't care if there are 11 defenders stacked in the box. It is totally inexcusable to not allow your RB 1 crack at picking up 2 tough yards.

(2) Personnel Management - RB Michael Bush had 9 carries for 50 yards in the 1st half. In the 2nd half he had 1 carry in the 3rd quarter. Why on earth does Cable have Charlie Frye, who has had only a handful of starts the past 3 years, chucking the ball 45 times?

Quote: Cable thought game circumstances stripped his team of "who we are" in terms of running in the 2nd half.

Reality: The Browns are one of the worst teams in the entire NFL at stopping the run. The score is 17-9 going into the 2nd half. There is ample time to use the run to sustain drives and cut the lead. Why on earth does Cable ice Bush when Bush just came off of a 100+ yard performance vs. the Broncos? 1 carry in the entire 2nd half? This goes against all football common sense.

(3) Leadership - As the 2nd quarter spun out of control with multiple penalty flags, personal fouls, and ejections (Routt, Stewart), where was Cable to reset the team's focus? Cable had numerous options as it unfolded. He could call a time-out and talk to the entire unit. He could yank one of the offending players off the field to cool off. He could get in the face of the officiating crew, bend their ear, and stand up for his team. Instead Cable sat idly on the sideline passively.

(4) Accountability - Either Cable has been watching a different season or has an inflated self worth but his assessment of his of own game management skills need to be checked.

Quote: On what he does exceptionally ... "I think I managed it as well as you can under the circumstances and what goes into the decision making, the opportunities to score points and do things throughout games." Cable said. "Certainly in game management I hear a lot of compliments from others that way, feel like that's a strength and I do that well."

Reality: Cable's playcalling skills has been erratic. His management and useage of personnel (Russell, DHB, Bush) has been questionable. Some will say that his hands were tied by Davis which is partly true. If Cable strongly believed that Russell and DHB needed the hook after the first 5 games or so this season, the burden falls on his shoulders to lobby, advocate, and persuade Davis. The way that he has utilized his best all around RB throughout the season has been nothing short of negligent.

Besides another double digit loss season, another factor in the demotion/termination of Cable is 7 losses of 14 or more points (Den, Hou, NYG, NYJ, Dal, Wash, Clev). 5 of these less than competitive games were by a margin of 20 points or more points.

The proponents for Cable returning as Head Coach in 2010 have a few good points to ponder. In no particular order, these are the considerations;

(1) The players genuinely like and play hard for Cable.
(2) The Raiders had good wins against playoff caliber teams (Philly, Cin, Pitt, Den).
(3) Bad QB play by Russell (and shoved down his throat for 9 games by Davis) killed Cable's chances for success in 2009.
(4) Cable seems to have a good working relationship with owner Al Davis.
(5) The importance of stability at Head Coach.
(6) Limited viable replacements for Cable.
(7) Cable has been thrown into the fire and is steadily learning/growing on the job.

One possible alternative is to keep Cable at Head Coach but find an offensive coordinator such as Marc Trestman to support him in his playcaling duties and be on deck for HC in 2011. In any other organization, this decision would be a no brainer ... Cable would receive his pink slip immediately following the Ravens game. 9-18, .333 winning percentage would normally warrant a dismissal. In an ironic and cruel twist of fate, Russell's poor performance might buy Cable an additional year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Raider Nation

Silver and Black Forever wishes the Raider Nation a very MERRY Christmas and a wonderful New Year. GO Raiders!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More Bush

One of the bones I have to pick with HC Tom Cable is the way he has employed his personnel. Specifically, it is inexcusable how he played DHB and Michael Bush. In the case of DHB, he had no business being the starter and getting the majority of reps. in the 1st 11 games in spite of palty production. 11 games, 9 receptions and 1 TD for our #7 pick is negligence on Cable's watch. Equally more disturbing is how Cable has vastly underutilized the talents of RB Michael Bush.

I understand Cable's philosophy of having a "committee" approach to using his 3 RBs. I also am fully aware of how each RB brings something different to the table. However, if 1 RB is producing at a higher rate than the other 2, it makes zero sense to use this same back in a sporadic fashion or cameo role.

Below is a brief summary of my beliefs on how Cable should use each RB and the statistics of each individual RB. Realizing that there are different circumstances to each game, each matchup, and injury considerations, it is crystal clear to me, Joe Fan, that Cable needs to get back to the basics;

(1) Which RB is most capable of carrying the load and being productive?
(2) Which RB, if used properly, gives the Raiders the best chance to win on any given Sunday?

Michael Bush:
Fast, nimble, big, powerful 250 lbs. RB who is ideally suited to run between the tackles but more than capable of getting to the edge for explosive gainers; adept at patiently allowing his blockers to make a crease; north-south runner; the best Raider RB at making the initial tackler miss or breaking the 1st tackle; excellent pass catcher; good at blitz pick up and blocking assignments.

Opinion: Bush should be the #1 RB who gets 15-20 carries per game and should be used more on check down passes, delayed middle screens, and passes in the flat.

2008: 95 carries, 421 yards, 4.4 YPC, long of 67, 3 TDs
2009: 103 carries, 519 yards, 5.0 YPC, long of 60, 3 TDs

Justin Fargas:
Pure blood and guts runner; reckless and fearless; inspirational leader. Is decisive but has sub par vision in terms of using his blockers, avoiding tackles, and running into his own blockers.

Opinion: I view Fargas as a good situational RB and the type of RB who can be used, on occasion, to inspire the team and salt away a victory in the 4th quarter.

2008: 218 caries, 853 yards, 3.9 YPC, long of 42, 1 TD
2009: 129 carries, 491 yards, 3.8 YPC, long of 35, 3 TDs

Darren McFadden:
Marred by multiple injuries, McFadden has yet to establish any rhythm. When healthy, his playing time is uneven. Has recently shown an improvement at running between the tackles and gaining the tough yards but is more of a Reggie Bush, outside the tackles threat. Biggest strength is his overall versatility.

Opinion: If used in a more varied, creative fashion, McFadden could be isolated in more favorable matchups. His speed and pass catching abilities is not being currently maximized to develop a more dynamic offensive unit.

2008: 113 carries, 499 yards, 4.4 YPC, long of 44, 4 TDs
2009: 92 carries, 325 yards, 3.5 YPC, long of 28, 1 TD

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Parting Gift From Russell

This was a very fitting game for a season filled with many head scratching moments in the Raiders 2009 season. Going into this road game as 14 point underdogs, Head Coach Cable started 3rd string QB Charlie Frye over the $60M man.

In the mind of Cable, Frye deserved to start because (1) he is well prepared (2) is a gym rat (3) commands the respect of his teammates (4) is mobile (5) understands the entire playbook (6) JaMarcus is a bust or (7) all of the above.

During the first 3 quarters of action, a rusty Charlie Frye did a commendable job managing the game, avoiding sacks, and making enough plays to keep the game close at 16-13 Broncos. Aiding Charlie was a "bend but don't break D" (3 goal lines stands) and a stout rushing attack (241 rushing yards for the game).

At the 10:59 mark in the 4th quarter, Frye was KO'ed by a vicious hit. As Frye layed on the ground with a concussion, the Raider fans at the Stick N Stein in El Segundo let out a deafening collective groan and chants of "Oh No!", "Get up Charlie", "Not JaMarcus!"

It seemed like another bad case of deja vu similar to the game vs. the Skins where Gradkowski got injured and Russell came in to lay an egg. Russell came in and sure enough, 2 quick series of ineptitude.

Facing a last ditch drive, down 19-13 with 3:29 left, Russell started off this critical series with a sack/fumble (recovered by Carlisle) for a 13 yard loss. If Carlisle doesn't recover this fumble, is there any doubt about the hostile venom that would be spewed in Russell's direction? Somehow, some way, Russell rebounded on an unlikely 10 play, 62 yard game winning TD drive overcoming long odds;

* Facing a 2nd and 23, the Broncos committed a costly 32 yard penalty pass interference.

* Drilled in the ribs throwing an incomplete pass (sat out 1 play with JP Losman taking over for another incomplete)

* Coming back to convert a 4th and 10 to TE Stewart for 11 yards

* Hooking up with Stewart again for 9 yards

* Completing a 13 yarder to WR Schilens to the Denver 10 yard line

* On 2nd and 10 with :35 to go in the game, Russell finished the drive off with a pass to Schilens in stride for the game winning TD.

The reason that I'm hoping this is a parting Christmas gift from Russell to secure a thrilling come from behind victory over a hated rival is that in spite of the his late game heroics, Russell doesn't deserve to come back in 2010.

This game showcased all of Russell's warts in 1 quarter what we have witnessed in his previous 9 starts in 2009:

(1) The playcalling menu is stripped down to "QB Playcalling For Dummies" to accommodate Russell's skill set and poor understanding of the entire playbook. How many snaps was he in shotgun? 75% of the snaps?

(2) Russell's poor pocket awareness and lack of mobility. His inability to improvise and adapt when the pocket breaks down kills far too many drives.

(3) Russell's knack for fumbling (8 fumbles this season). I would venture to say that Russell fumbles at a higher rate per snap than any QB in the history of the NFL. It has come to the point where I'm truly shocked if he doesn't fumble at least once in a game.

(4) Calling a time out due to confusion. Russell's lack of fundamental football knowledge and formation recognition causes indecision and costly timeouts.

(5) Bouncing a pass well short of a wide open Murphy. Russell is unreliable to throw the ball accurately. Completing less than 50% of your passes simply is not acceptable.

Although the Nation can savor an enjoyable win, Russell is not, nor will he ever be, the solution to getting this team over the hump. Cable made the right call by starting Frye and Gradkowski earlier in the season.

The minimum baseline for a successful QB in the NFL is someone who commands respect, makes good decisions, is completely dedicated to his craft, and gives the team the best chance to win. Russell on occasion shows flashes of his talent but cannot be counted on to lead a team.

Monday, December 14, 2009

2 Halves, 2 QBs

If this was a video game, you could easily push the reset button. Since this was a real football game, the only logical option is to cut Russell at the end of the season.

In this game vs. the Washington Redskins, there were 2 very distinct Raider QBs behind center in 2 very distinct halves of football.

In the 1st half of a competitive, exciting, close, hard fought game, Gradkowski demonstrated the key qualities and competencies of an NFL QB in terms of leadership, energy, mobility, ball security, and offensive production.

The Raiders offensive unit moved the football (181 yards), Gradkowski had the passing attack clicking (10 receptions, 153 yards), showed pocket presence and escapability, and most importantly, had the Raiders within 1 score of the Skins.

Unfortunately, Ski tore 1 MCL and partially tore the other MCL on an attempted sack. In a cruel twist of irony, no pun intended, it was this very same play that Ski proved his toughness and adaptability to a stiff pass rush. It was amazing to watch Ski twist, turn, and improvise an underhand shovel pass to Fargas.

Russell started the 2nd half with the Raiders down 17-10. It was the equivalent of splashing cold water in the faces of the other 10 offensive players and Raider fans alike. The proverbial wind was taken out of our sails when our fallen leader got injured at the end of the first half. The good mojo of Ski was replaced by the negative mojo of Russell.

Russell looked like his cleats were filled with lead or he was playing in quicksand whenever he dropped back to pass. For the entire 2nd half, the Raiders offense accumulated only 19 net yards. Series after series was killed by Russell's lack of pocket awareness and mobility as he was sacked 6 times for -45 yards. Here is a quick snapshot of Russell's 1st 4 series;

1st series: (Start on own 44 yard line) 9 plays, 20 yards, 54 yard field goal; drive was killed by a -9 yard sack.

2nd series: (Start on own 49 yard line) sacked twice; -6 yards, -9 yards; punt

3rd series: 1st play INT

4th series: 1st play sack (-10 yards) & recovered fumble at own 3 yard line; later in the drive sacked for -9 yards and sacked for -2 yards

This Wednesday, Head Coach Cable has a very important decision to make that will impact the players and fans morale. He will choose his QB vs. the Broncos.

The choice will be either (a) the hard working, dedicated journeyman gym rat (Charlie Frye) or (b)the lazy, unaccountable check casher (JaMarcus Russell).

If Cable picks (a) over (b), I guarantee that the other 43 suited up players will bust their tail on Sunday and fans will have some sense of hope for a victory.

If he picks (b) or is forced to pick (b) by Davis, the entire spirit of competitive football will be carelessly tossed in the garbage bin.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

DHB Scratch, Passing Game Reborn

The Raiders passing attack throughout this season has been impotent for a myriad of reasons. Poor QB play, inconsistent pass protection, and paltry production from the WR corps. In the 1st 11 games, 1 of our starting WRs, DHB, had a whopping total of 9 catches and 1 TD.

Lo and behold, DHB was a late scratch from the game today vs. Pittsburgh. In DHB's place, JLH started and Murphy received more reps. JLH (4 receptions, 63 yards) & Murph (4 receptions, 128 yards, 2 TDs), while splitting snaps, produced more in 1 game than DHB has in 11 games as a starter.

In this thrilling last second 27-24 victory, the Raiders 3 primary WRs (Schilens, JLH, Murphy) combined for 11 receptions, 236 yards, and 3 TDs. Is it a coincidence that the passing attack got on track with DHB in street clothes? Many Raiders fans have been upset with the stubbornness that Raiders management (Cable & Davis) have shown in the bad decision to give DHB so many unearned snaps.

The other key component to a productive day in the air was Ski's ability to improvise and adapt to a stiff pass rush by using his feet, legs, and head. For the day, Ski was 20-33, 61%, 308 yards, 3 TDs, 0 Ints. There were numerous plays in this contest where Ski was able to buy time, go to his 2nd and 3rd read, and deliver an accurate pass.

This game made it crystal clear to all the Raider arm chair QBs. In order to field the most competitive team, DHB & Russell need to earn their way back on to the field. How high you were drafted or the size of your paycheck should not determine your playing status. Playing time should be earned by the performance on the field.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Message To Al

Is this the product of 7 consecutive seasons of double digit losses? This billboard, via, is up at Nimitz Frwy (I-880) close to Oakland Alameda County Stadium. The total cost of the billboard was $5,500 for a 4 week lease starting Dec 1, 2009.

Every Dick, Jane, and Tom who has followed the Raiders knows instinctively that the 1st step to turning this organization around is to hire a GM. As outlined in one of my earlier posts, the only way to make a positive, sustainable change is for Davis to hire a GM to provide the executive support the team desperately needs.

If it takes a billboard and 25k people to sign a petition to shame Davis into action, so be it. The bottom line is that the fans that genuinely and honestly care about the Raiders getting off the rocks and into the deep blue sea realize that Al Davis NEEDS and DESERVES a GM.

It isn't rocket science. It isn't a breakthrough idea. It isn't anything revolutionary. It is merely a logical, reasonable solution to making a significant positive change. The status quo is a dead end. It provides zero hope for the avid Raider followers. Until a GM is hired, expect double digit loss seasons to pile up and Davis' legacy to be further tarnished.

Sure we can all hope for a better draft, a better coaching staff, improvements by our existing players. If the stars are aligned, a .500 season would be a major accomplishment. If shooting for .500 is the "ultimate" goal, go ahead and knock yourself out but don't count on the loyal fans to stick around. Your diehard fan will invest less of their time & money and simply become casual observers and nothing more.